Back in the day, when we all had those tube-style televisions with sturdy, curved glass screens, it was easy enough to clean them: We simply sprayed the screen with cleaning solution and wiped it down — the same basic technique you’d use to clean a mirror or a window. But modern LED, LCD and plasma screens are made with a thin, flat layer of glass that requires a much gentler touch — and certain cleaning products may actually do more harm than good. Still, the last thing you want is a screen that’s covered in streaks, spots or smudges. And TVs aren’t the only screens we spend time with, so we asked cleaning experts how to clean a TV screen and other electronic devices. Read on for their top tips.
How to clean a TV screen
While you don’t want to use Windex or other harsh cleaners, you do need a few simple supplies. The good news is you likely have most of them on hand. Read on for the easy step-by-step guide.
1. Turn off your TV and let it cool down completely
It’s easier to see dust and smudges while your TV is off. And if the screen is still warm while you’re cleaning, the moisture from your damp cloth or cleaning solution may dry too quickly and leave streaks behind, says Elizabeth Shields, Operations Manager of Super Cleaning Service Louisville, a professional cleaning company.
If you’re cleaning with a damp cloth or cleaning solution, be sure to unplug your TV before you start. That way, if any moisture comes into contact with any of the internal electrical components, you won’t risk getting shocked or damaging the television.
2. Choose a microfiber cloth
Microfiber cloths are the best choice for cleaning a TV screen. “Their incredibly fine fibers are designed to be gentle on delicate surfaces while trapping dust, fingerprints and smudges, leaving screens gleaming without streaks or scratches,” Shields says.
Avoid using paper towels or scrubbing sponges, which can damage the screen. Even chamois cloths may cause micro-scratches in delicate screens, Shields says.
3. Use gentle cleaners (or just water!)
“Stick to mild cleaners or DIY solutions specifically designed for electronics to avoid damaging the display or components,” Shields says. If you’re using a store-bought cleaner, make sure it doesn’t contain alcohol, ammonia or acetone, all of which can potentially damage TV screens.
If your television has an anti-glare coating on the screen, stick with plain old water — preferably distilled. Even mild cleaning agents can strip away this coating, leaving your screen looking cloudy or splotchy. If you’re not sure if your screen has an anti-glare coating, check the instruction manual. (Already threw it out? You may be able to find it at the manufacturer’s website or at an online database like ManualsLib.)
4. Keep moisture to a minimum
“A slightly damp cloth can effortlessly wipe away fingerprints and dust without any fuss,” Shields says. “The moisture assists in breaking down and lifting stubborn residue, making cleaning more effective.”
But too much moisture can seep into the TV and damage the electrical components, Shields adds — so make sure your cloth is damp, not dripping wet, and avoid spraying water or cleaning solution directly onto the screen.
Instead, spray your microfiber cloth with the water or cleaning solution, then gently wipe the TV using soft, circular motions. This is also an excellent time to dust off the rest of your TV set, along with any cabinet or stand it happens to be mounted on.
5. Eliminate smudges with a DIY solution
If you have spots, smudges or fingerprints that won’t wipe off easily with a damp cloth, Consumer Reports recommends using a droplet of dish soap, highly diluted in water — around a 100:1 ratio of water to soap.
When spot cleaning a flat-screen TV, follow the same strategies as above: Apply the solution to your cloth, not directly to the screen, and use gentle pressure when wiping.
6. Dry your screen to prevent streaks
Letting your screen air-dry is one of the most common mistakes Shields sees. Any remaining moisture can cause streaking as it dries, so after using a damp cloth, give it a thorough wipe-down with a dry cloth. Wait a few minutes to make sure every last bit of moisture has evaporated, then plug your TV in and enjoy the crystal-clear picture.
How to clean a phone screen, tablet or Fitbit
To clean screens on smaller devices, you don’t need to buy a pricey “electronics cleaning cloth.” All you need is distilled water and pure cotton or microfiber cloths. Shields swears by Screen Daddy microfiber cloth pads (buy on Amazon, $4.91 for 2).
First, give your mobile device a light, dry wipe-down with your cloth. Next, soak the cloth in distilled water and run it across your phone screen from side to side. Be sure to refold the cloth every couple of strokes so a clean section is always touching your screen. Then wipe it with a dry cloth. If you notice any gunk on the edges, use a dry cotton swab to remove it.
Some tech gadgets have an oleophobic coating, which repels oil to keep your screen fingerprint-free. If your device has one, avoid using isopropyl alcohol wipes to clean your screen since this can damage the coating.
If your device doesn’t have this coating, you can clean any tough spots on your screen by dipping your cloth in a 50-50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and distilled water, then gently rubbing the stains.
How to clean a computer screen
Before you clean a computer screen, it’s a good idea to start by shutting your monitor down entirely. As with TVs, it’s easier to see dust and fingerprints on a dark computer screen.
After you do that, grab a dry microfiber cloth and gently wipe the screen in long motions. For most standard messiness, that may be all you need.
If you have anything ickier or trickier than dust on your computer screen, try dipping the cloth into distilled water before wiping. If that doesn’t work, you may need to use a simple cleaning solution. Add a bit of distilled white vinegar to the water to help loosen the grime, or use a gentle cleaning fluid specifically designed for computer monitors. Shields likes the WHOOSH! 2.0 Screen Cleaner kit (buy it at Amazon, $19.99). (Click through for more white vinegar uses.)
As with TV screens, don’t spray any liquid directly on a computer monitor, as it can potentially cause damage. After you’re done cleaning, let your computer dry completely before turning it back on.
And if you’re ever in doubt about the best way to clean your electronics, consult the user’s manual — chances are, you’re just a few steps away from a clean screen!
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